Pastor Rick Warren and the ‘the poor do not pay taxes’ bit

Seems Rick, who was almost forced into saying something negative about the Ugandian ‘Kill the Gays Bill’ last year was quick on the draw to ignore the taxes paid by the poor (gas, food, etc…) and enter into the debt-ceiling fray:

HALF of America pays NO taxes. Zero. So they’re happy for tax rates to be raised on the other half that DOES pay any taxes.

There are two responses which I would encourage you to read… here and here.

Okay.. so I stretch my imaginary line a bit, but this far? I mean, I’m trying not to get involved in politics (side v side) too much. I urge you too pray for this issue, and for Rick….

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24 Replies to “Pastor Rick Warren and the ‘the poor do not pay taxes’ bit”

  1. Whatever common taxes we all pay for gas and food, the rich pay more of those, too. Everyone knows this and no one disputes it. As to federal income tax (a massively significant tax in every possible way), he’s quite right. It’s not just “an ignorant Limbaugh talking point” (salon.com article). It seems he’s being less than clear and you are purposefully misreading him. This is how partisan politics is typically played… and it’s no good.

    1. Sorry, Tim, but the fact is, is that he didn’t go into the details. I wasn’t quoting Salon, but the way, just the ignorance of Warren.

      1. A significant problem, once again, is that he said this on Twitter. Twitter is not an appropriate venue to deal with complex issues. 140 characters is not enough to develop a thought. Warren deserves all the ire he receives from this. It appears he was trying to be clever with the emphatic “NO. zero.”, but in truth he was a fool not to learn from the recent streak of Christian leaders having to dislodge their feet from their mouths.

  2. Warren, who benefits from tax-free benefits like housing allowances, that can be quite substantial, certainly doesn’t have the moral high ground here.

      1. Have we gotten to the point in our modern American society that even many Christians now believe that a (if not THE) primary way to help the poor is through paying taxes to the government? And, churches help people in countless ways in the private sector . . . that is one reason why they are tax-exempt.

        I do not have the exact numbers, but I am pretty sure that the numbers for the most recent year available show that the households in the top 5% of income pay more than 45% of total tax revenue, while the lowest 50% of households with respect to income pay less than 3% of total income tax revenue. This hardly seems an unfair or unjust system of taxation to me.

        Actually, many households today not only do not pay any income tax, they receive money from the government through the tax system.

        When a significant percentage of people pay NO income tax, and actually receive money FROM the government through the tax system, is it any wonder that our society’s attitude toward expanding government has changed, away from the limited government attitudes of our founding?

        This change, I would submit, is at the root of our current fiscal problems.

        1. “When a significant percentage of people pay NO income tax, and actually receive money FROM the government through the tax system, is it any wonder that our society’s attitude toward expanding government has changed, away from the limited government attitudes of our founding?”

          What on earth makes you think government policy is being dictated by “Big Poor”? If you want to see who gets their way in Washington, look at the changes in distribution of wealth in the US over the last 30 years. We’re heading into banana republic territory.

          If the poor were dictating policy, things would be *very* different. I just don’t see how you can look at US policy and think the problem is that our elected officials are too subservient to poor people’s interests. It’s absurd.

        2. “This change, I would submit, is at the root of our current fiscal problems.”

          No, the root of our current fiscal problems can be summed up by “two stupid wars, profligate defense spending, and a series of ill-considered tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans during the Bush administration” plus “poor economic performance through the 2000’s followed by a deep recession resulting in very low government revenue”.

          None of those things were particularly beneficial to the poors.

          We’d be much better off if Bush hadn’t cut taxes and hadn’t gone to war in Iraq, and had maintained the surplus that Clinton left.

  3. Tim, Warren knows how to deal with being excessively taxed. I think Jesus said something about giving away all your wealth and following him.

    That’d certainly cut a rich person’s tax burden. And it’s an option that is open to all of them. I guess they would prefer the burden of taxes to the burden of poverty.

  4. So, HALF of America pays NO taxes. Zero. Does that HALF include G.E. who made $14B in profits last year, with $5B directly within the U.S. They paid No corporate taxes last year. NONE. So, don’t want to get into politics, but good, conservative right-wing Christian Tea Party types don’t seem to like the poor, unwashed of the world sucking life (money) off the middle class. But they don’t seem to mind oil companies getting HUGE tax subsidies, to go along with their HUGE, RECORD profits. I am only capitalizing, since they like to capitalize, to emphasis their point of ABSURDITY. Of course, G.E. IS providing jobs – mostly to people in other countries, not the U.S.. So I am glad Warren supports the employment of people in other countries with tax payer subsidized money. Reminds me of the science fiction show, Deep Space 9, and the aliens that live by the 1st mantra of life, PROFITS.

    1. On January 21, 2011, Jeffrey Immelt, the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of GE, was named by President Obama to head his Economic Advisory Panel, the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

      Interesting that President Obama would associate, and give a key leadership advisory position in his Administration, to the head of such an organization.

      1. And I would say that is the prime problem with Obama. He is too willing to get bipartisan support. I voted for him, because I thought he was going to get us out of Iraq and Afganistan last year. Not in 2 or more years from now. And I mean totally out, not the standard garbage of “fighting troops out”, and leaving a huge contingent of “support” people, that can be blown up by an IED just as easily as fighting troops. Then Obama gets us into Libya! Of course, he is still the lesser of two evils. If McCain was president, we’d also have ground troops in Libya. And to quote McCain – “what’s wrong with being in Iraq for 50 years?” We’re in Germany, S. Korea, for 60+ years. We are insane.

      2. It’s an example of the influence of Big Poor. Immelt must be one of the poor, untaxed people who forces the government to spend all its money on poor people.

  5. And BTW, I know G.E. is not an oil company…but oil companies get the same public handout. I use to drive by G.E.’s jet engine plant in Cincinnati…which they probably already shut down, and moved overseas.

    1. No, it’s still there. They were recently developing an alternate engine for the F35. The alternate engine is no longer wanted by the US government, but they’re going to continue developing it, probably to sell to other F35 buyers.

      1. Score more points for, “Don’t tax the rich, they produce jobs”…..from the web “General Electric announced it’s moving its 115-year-old X-ray business from Waukesha, Wisconsin to Beijing, China”…choke. Must be nice to not pay taxes, then cut jobs here, to generate jobs in China. Why? Profit. Half of America…how do I get into that half. And isn’t churches “non-profit”, and therefore don’t pay taxes. I have no problem with that, but Rick Warren ought to zip it, and stick to religion. And give some of his excess “profits” from his church to the poor. Gee, I wonder if he is thinking of getting a corporate jet, like Oral Roberts son?

  6. TomD:

    You say that “the top 5% of income pay more than 45% of total tax revenue…” Even so, they pay less than their fair share because the top 1% makes more than 50% of wages. (BTW, I am easily in the top 3-4% of earners, so this isn’t about self interest.)

    The inequality of wages in the US, which has grown steadily since the 1970s, is a serious economic problem, not just a moral one. A prosperous middle class stimulates economic activity.

    Warren must be a fan of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which a few years ago referred to the people who don’t earn enough to pay income tax as “lucky duckies.” As ugly and stupid as that sentiment is, the Journal at least has the excuse that is representing the views of its privileged constituency.

    Warren is just a flaming asshole (can I say that here?) who shows himself to morally bankrupt. Does he have any “lucky duckies” in his congregation? Or does he only minister to the jet set?

    1. Actually, my numbers are off . . . for the tax year 2008, according to the Internal Revenue Service, the top 5% of income earning households paid 58.7% of the total income tax revenue, while the bottom 50% of income earning households paid 2.7%.

      The top 50% of wage earners paid 97.3% of the total income tax revenue; the bottom 50% of wage earners paid 2.7% of income tax revenue. This is far from an unjust system of income taxation, or one that can be characterized with the slogan, “The rich don’t pay their fair share.”

      And Income inequality, to the extent that it exists, is not going to be rectified by higher taxation. Most people who espouse higher taxation do not do so for positive, economically-based reasons. They have other “motivations.”

      The path to economic prosperity does not lie in an ever-expanding national government and higher levels of taxation of the private sector. The majority of European countries have already discovered this. Why are we seemingly headed in the opposite direction in the growth of our national government?

      And I am no defender of Rick Warren. While the statement above . . . HALF of America pays NO taxes. Zero . . . is misleading and factually incorrect, the lower tax/smaller government approach of the Republicans is better for long-term economic growth (if it is fully implemented) than the higher tax/bigger government approach of the Democrats. Polling shows that most American instinctively know this.

      What I will defend is the basic fairness of the present income tax system in the United States. Our present income tax system is not the cause of our economic problems and higher taxes are not the solution.

      However, whether it is already too late for a soft landing from our current fiscal predicament, no matter what path we choose, is very much in question.

      1. Tom, you really need facts rather than dogma.

        First of all, income tax is not all tax. There are a host of other taxes that are regressive. Lower-income people pay a higher share of their income as taxes than wealthy people.

        Second, you are not acknowledging that wealthy people pay more income tax because they make more income. The portion of the total income tax paid by the top 1% or 5% is still less than the propotion of income they earn.

        Third, you assert that prosperity is tied to lower taxes. That is a religious belief with no basis in facts. Go look up some statistics on the economy. There is no relationship between tax rates and economic growth. In fact, periods of high growth coincide with higher tax rates.

        Now you can say that high taxes didn’t create growth, which may or may not be true, but what is certain is that higher taxes didn’t impede growth.

        More recently, the economy created 20 million jobs in the eight years following the slight tax increase on the wealthy in 2003. Then taxes were lowered in 2002 and we had the weakest economic growth in modern history followed by the deepest recession since the Great Depression. If lowering taxes were the solution, the past decade would have seen skyrocketing growth.

        The proportion of taxes raised in relation to GDP in the US is now at its lowest level in 50 years. We are not overtaxed by historical standards or in relation to other countries. Our taxes as a share of GDP are far less than Europe, but GDP growth is about the same over time.

        With regard to the GOP, again, look at historical GDP growth and employment growth and stock market total returns during Republican and Democratic administrations over the past century and you will find that your assertion about which party is better for long-term growth is not backed by any real data, just a religious belief.

        Again, even if it is not clear that Democrats were the cause of growth, clearly Democratic leadership didn’t impede growth and GOP leadership didn’t create growth.

        Our current fiscal predicament is not a huge problem. Because interest rates are so low, the service on our debt is less than if we had less debt outstanding and higher rates. The deficit itself would shrink fairly quickly if the jobs market continues to recover.

        I’m not saying we shouldn’t take action to reduce the debt, but it is not nearly as big an economic problem to the country as unemployment. And increasing the top tax bracket to 39% from 35% on the wealthiest 2-3% (where it was in the high-growth 1990s) is a reasonable part of a deficit reduction plan.

        1. Dogma? Quoting Internal Revenue Service data is hardly dogmatic.

          So much to comment on . . . but so little space.

          First, I know that all tax is not income tax. Second, I do know that the primary reason that higher people pay higher taxes is because they earn more income. As it should be. Third, your statement that “periods of high growth coincide with higher tax rates” is not backed up with any “facts,” only asserted, rather dogmatically I might add.

          How do you KNOW that higher taxes did not impede growth? THAT is merely an assertion, not backed by fact.

          “The proportion of taxes raised in relation to GDP in the US is now at its lowest level in 50 years.” We are now at a point where taxation is at 23-24% of GDP, where historically we have been at about 19%. We are NOT now at our lowest levels of taxation relative to GDP.

          “And increasing the top tax bracket to 39% from 35% on the wealthiest 2-3% (where it was in the high-growth 1990s) is a reasonable part of a deficit reduction plan.” That is assuming that the increased revenue, if there is any, will be applied to reducing the debt, rather than spent on more government programs, a highly unlikely outcome.

          I stand by my contention that higher taxes and bigger government are not the path to economic growth and prosperity. That is not a matter of dogma. Virtually every other industrialized nation in the world has recognized this fact.

  7. TomD:

    1) You say: “your statement that “periods of high growth coincide with higher tax rates” is not backed up with any “facts,” only asserted..”

    Uh, the numbers are available if you have access to economy.com. I’ll post them if you pay me. That’s not a joke, BTW, but you could probably find them cheaper by googling.

    2) If higher taxes impeded growth, then growth would diminish when taxes are raised and vice versa. That is not what happens historically.

    You are entitled to your opinions, but not your own set of facts.

    3) Taxes are NOT 23-24% of GDP, you knucklehead. Government spending is 20+% of GDP at the moment, but revenue is something like 15.7%. That is why there is a big deficit, because spending (which is within historical norms) is more than taxes (which is at a 50-year low).

    Really, you are making yourself sound foolish.

    4) Virtually every other industrialized nation has not recognized whatever you think they have. Gov’t spending and taxation represents some 30-40% of GDP in the average European country (I don’t know the exact number offhand, and I know it varies by country, in fact I think Sweden is near 50%, but in any event it is way more than the US).

    Now if European countries reduce their government spending on average from 35% of GDP to 33% of GDP, what does that say about the US, which is in the low 20% range? Maybe we don’t spend enough?

    But I’m going to end my participation in this discussion by recommending that you get some facts, even though I’m 99% sure you won’t.

    Good luck.

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